The Week In Ink: September 17, 2008

In this week’s DC Nation column, Jann Jones, the editor in charge of DC’s kids line who’s also responsible for Ambush Bug: Year None, tells a heartwarming story about meeting a young girl at HeroesCon who “reminded me of why we work so hard every day to make the best comics possible.”

She does not mention the HeroesCon experience of having three drunks coming up to her in the hotel bar to demand Sugar & Spike reprints. Maybe she’s saving that one for Penthouse Forum.



And now that I’ve used the kick to the face as the visual equivalent of the rimshot, it looks like it’s time for yet another round of the Internet’s Most Diabolical Comics Reviews!

Here’s what I brought home in a plain brown wrapper this week…



And here’s what I thought of ’em!





Age of the Sentry #1: I get the feeling that there’s a comparison that you’re going to be seeing a lot when it comes to this one, so let’s get this out of the way right up front: Age of the Sentry is very reminiscent of Alan Moore’s 1963.

This is not a bad thing.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, 1963 was an image project that Moore, Steve Bisette and Rick Veitch did for Image that was built around creating comics that read like they were from, brace yourselves for the shocker here, the dawn of the Marvel Age in 1963. There were analogues for all the big ones–The Fury was a stand-in for Spider-Man, Mystery Inc. for the Fantastic Four, Horus for Thor and so on–complete with parodies of vintage ads and “Affable Al” Moore doing his best impression of Stan “The Man” Lee’s hype machine. It was even supposed to climax in a big annual that, much like the “lost” Bob Haney Teen Titans story that finally got released last year, was going to involve both aliens and John F. Kennedy, but unfortunately, it never came out, and unlike Lost Girls, there don’t appear to be plans for a bitchin’ hardcover edition.

Still, 1963‘s a hell of a lot of fun, and it’s in that regard more than any other that it’s similar to Age of the Sentry. They’re both lighthearted retro books, but while 1963 was an attempt to create Image characters that fit into the mold of early Marvel, Age of the Sentry‘s an attempt to give a Marvel character the half-nonsensical fun of Silver-Age Superman. And it works beautifully.

I’ll be honest with you, folks: I cannot stand the Sentry. Or rather, I appreciate that it’s interesting to figure out how a DC-style paragon could work in a universe built around heroes with feet of clay, but when he starts showing up in Avengers, it just flat-out doesn’t work, and seeing the phrase “agoraphobic schizophrenic” repeated ad nauseum is only bearable when it leads directly into being punched out by the Hulk.

This, however, is exactly the kind of story that the character can work well in: One that ignores the commentary on comics and just gathers up pieces of the Marvel Universe and has fun with them, and Jeff Parker and Paul Tobin bring the same zippy, fun energy that they’ve put into books like Marvel Adventures Avengers and Agents of Atlas to do just that. The art’s great, too, with Nick Dragotta and Ramon Rosanas playing along with the retro feel of it, and even the small bits, like the slightly off-center coloring in some parts and the “continued after next page” notes before the ads just make it a joy to read.

Heck, it’d be the best of the week easy, if it wasn’t for one thing.





All-Star Superman #12:



And that’s all I’ve got to say about that. But, if you want someone to use actual sentences to describe the end of the series, Birdie’s got a few of them over at CBR, although he makes the glaring mistake of calling #10 the best issue of the series, when it’s clearly #4, the Jimmy Olsen issue. Just sayin’.


Conan the Cimmerian #3: All right, Tim Truman, we gotta talk about all these stories about Connacht that keep cropping up when I’m trying to read about Conan.

If I’m reading things correctly, then Conan the Cimmerian–at least for this first bit–is about Conan’s return to his native Cimmeria after years of wandering around getting into totally awesome adventures, and that’s fine, but if that’s what’s going on, then why does the story have to shift for pages at a time to flashbacks of Conan’s grandfather? I get that it was Connacht’s wanderlust that inspired his grandson and all that, but wouldn’t those stories be more appropriate in showing why Conan left rather than why he’s coming back? And if you just want to tell stories about a barbarian warrior rolling around Zamora and Aquilonia, then why not just do those stories with Conan? Why bother bringing him back to Cimmeria if the focus is just going to shift to other places?

I mean really: It’s not that I’d mind reading about Connacht, and it’s definitely not that I mind reading two-fisted sword and sorcery yarns that are drawn by Richard Corben, and it’s not that either of the stories running through are bad by any means, but it’s not his name on the cover. I mean, as much as these stories are obviously going to tie together, I don’t pick up Batman because I want to see him sitting around a cave thinking about this one time that Thomas Wayne pulled off some awesome surgery, and getting three flashback-heavy issues in a row with every indication that they’re continuing indefinitely isn’t quite the thrill I was hoping for.


Incredible Hercules #121: Ever since I posted a scene from it for last week’s Friday Night fights, I’ve been thinking a lot about Walt Simonson’s run on Thor–more than usual, I mean–and I know I say this every month, but I cannot stress it enough: If you like Simonson’s Thor–or hell, if you like good comic books–then you really need to be reading Incredible Hercules.

Like I said, I’ve been through this before so I’ll keep it brief: It’s got the same blend of mythology and the Marvel Universe, the same great, sweeping stories–seriously, the last arc had Hercules, an Eternal, Snowbird from Alpha Flight and the Japanese God of Evil who only speaks in haiku fighting the Skrull gods in Nightmare’s realm–and even the same fun sound effects, which this issue include “SPROY-BLOOM!” and “tic tac toe.”

But even beyond the obvious similarities, they’re both just great comics, and in this issue, Pak, Van Lente and artist Clayton Henry show you what Amazons Attack would’ve been like if it was totally freakin’ awesome. Read it.


Marvel Adventures Avengers #28: Ladies and Gentlemen…




Marvel Apes #2: Two issues in, and it’s become clear to me now that Marvel Apes is not the book that I was expecting it to be… It’s actually even better than I could’ve hoped. Why?

Because this is not just a comic about an alternate Marvel Universe where the heroes are apes, but one where the heroes are apes and also some of them are vampires, and the vampire monkey super-heroes are having a secret Civil War.

I mean, I don’t even know how to review something like that, but I swear to you that that is exactly what’s going on here, and it cracks me up every time I think about it. It’s a hoot.


The Punisher #62: And speaking of things that we’re two issues into, this is Gregg Hurwitz’s second outing with the Punisher, and I think it’s clear from the way this issue ends that he’s taking a different tact with the character than Garth Ennis. As good as they were, Ennis’s stories in the Max run were procedurals at heart: Each one had virtually the same start (someone does something so horrible that the audience has no trouble in justifying that they need to be killed) and the same finish (Frank kills a bunch of people), and the stuff in the middle was tweaked into an enjoyably jagged line that connected the endpoints. It’s a forumla, but it’s a formula that worked, whether the catalyst was the insulting personal tragedy of Up Is Down and Black Is White or the gut-wrenching brutality of The Slavers (probably the best and most archetypical story of the Max era), and it had the side effect of casting the Punisher himself as less of a character and more of a plot device. We don’t identify with Frank because we sympathize with his loss, but because Ennis shows us people he encounters through the same black-and-white filter that divides them into people who can live and people so horrible that we can’t wait to see them killed.

Hurwitz, however, seems to want to make the Punisher a character again, and so in this issue, he goes for his Big Moment by–spoiler warning–having Frank accidentally kill a young girl that was set out as bait. It certainly presents a conflict, but it’s one that relies on the cheap shock than exploration of the character. For him to make a mistake like this certainly casts him in the light of someone who’s only human–which I’m sure was Hurwitz’s intention–but the problem there is that he’s not only human. He’s a comic book character that’s been built around and portrayed as an archetype of cold, seething vengeance for the past eight years, and unless this story ends with Castle blowing his own brains out, this gives us a bit of a problem. The Punisher isn’t really known for his forgiveness–he’s not called the Forgiver, after all–and given how he chooses to spend his time, one can assume that he’s at least as hard on himself as anyone else. Odds are the girl was dead before he got there, which will provide an easy out without actually addressing the issue, but still.

Under a writer that I had more confidence in–not to dig on Hurwitz too hard, but this is the second comic he’s written that I’ve read, so there’s a lack of familiarity in play–I’d have more faith for seeing how it could play out, but given that this issue ends with a crane shot of the Punisher kneeling down with the caption “I feel” that could only be more lip-tremblingly emo if they’d printed some Dashboard Confessional lyrics across the bottom of the page, hopes are not high.


War Heroes #2: I don’t mean to be a dick about this, but it seems like Mark Millar’s gotten awfully cocky lately. I mean, I’m sure he works hard on his scripts, but like everything he’s written lately, it’s full of wooden characters who ejaculate tough-guy dialogue and stiff lines in the most turgid political metaphors in comics. The only difference is that here, the members of the cast are soldiers, which means they spend their time polishing their helmets instead of ironing their tights. I guess it was a boner for me to pick up another issue, but it just feels like Millar’s giving his readers the shaft once again with another package of the same old junk.

Also, there’s totally a penis in this book.



And on that 13-hit combo, I’m calling it a night. Special thanks to Dr. K for his help, and as always, questions and comments about the week’s books are welcome below, so feel free to discuss how absolutely gorgeous the new Local hardcover is, or the mind-boggling awesomeness of Blade’s new haircut.

In the meantime, I’m going to slowly realize that I think about the Punisher way, way more than I ought to.

The Week In Ink: July 25, 2007

So the ISB got mentioned on television for the second time last night, courtesey of G4’s Attack of the Show. For those of you who haven’t seen the program, allow me to sum it up: Essentially, it’s an hour-long show where beautiful women read you the Internet, which is an idea so undeniably brilliant that I can’t believe society didn’t come up with it sooner. Kevin Pereira also stars.

Anyway, the point of all this is that, with a handy link on the AOTS website, there might be a few of you out there who are visiting for the first time, so I feel like it might be a good idea to explain myself.

I’m Chris Sims, and, well, I pretty much do this:



That, my friends, is the Pirate Queen of Pinghai Bay kicking no less than four fallen women in the face at the same time and really, there is nothing that says “it’s time to review some comics” quite like that.

Before we get on with it, though, I’d like to welcome the ISB’s first returning sponsor, my pal Jim Shelley and Flashback Universe Comics. There’s a new story up this week featuring the Fantom Force, which may be of interest to ISB readers for reasons that should be apparent to anybody who saw me hanging out with Jim at HeroesCon, and, y’know, it’s free. And while you’re at it, swing by previous sponsors Atomic Comics and The Rack, and tell ’em Chris Sims sentcha.

Okay! Now that the part that nobody reads is out of the way, let’s get to the part that, well, if we’re honest with ourselves, nobody really reads either. That’s right, kiddo: It’s Thursday night, and that means it’s time once again for the Internet’s Most Bare-Knuckled Comics Reviews! Here’s what punched me in the wallet this week…



And now… it’s my turn!





All-Star Batman and Robin the Boy Wonder #6: Ladies and gentlemen, the debate about whether or not All-Star Batman is actually good is officially over, as it has now transcended your petty human concept of “quality” and become something so mind-shatteringly awesome that you’re lucky you can look at it without your head exploding. I mean really: At this point, the only way it could be better is if this book was actually called The Goddamn Batman.

It’s pure and beautiful on a level that even Dark Xena has yet to reach, with scenes featuring Jim Gordon leering at his own daughter, Frank Miller taking cranky old man pot-shots at text messages, the most ludicrous faux-accented dialogue outside of Chris Claremont, and Jimmy Olsen getting an eyeful of “probably the most gorgeous babe in journalism on the whole planet.” Which pretty much just means that she’s hotter than Nina Totenberg, but still, it’s hilarious.

And that isn’t even the best part, which is, of course, the last page. The beautiful thing about ASBAR is that you can read the pages in a completely random order and not diminish your enjoyment one bit, so I read that one first. And I swear to you, without exaggeration, that it made me laugh so hard that my vision blurred and I had trouble standing up. And it even came out only two months after the previous issue, further lending credence to my theory that the long delays were caused not by laziness on the part of the creators, but by Miller going back and rewriting the stories so that they would revolve exclusively around profanity. Oh Goddamn Batman, you are a delight!





Annihilation: Conquest – Starlord #1: I realize that after the last review, my credibility is probably dubious at best, but really: If you can come up with a better concept than Rocket Raccoon making a machine gun nest in Groot, the Monarch of Planet X, so that they can go on a suicide mission with Mantis and one of the Micronauts, then I’d certainly like to hear it.

I’ve been enjoying Annihilation an awful lot ever since I jumped on with the hardcovers, but unless Wraith actually does reveal himself to be the greatest of the Spaceknights, Starlord is shaping up to be the best of them by far. And really, that surprised me, since until now I’ve never really enjoyed Keith Giffen’s take on Marvel’s cosmic stuff: I skipped his Drax mini-series entirely, and his run on Thanos after Jim Starlin’s abrupt departure–where he followed up a story about the Mad Titan taking on both Galactus and a monstrous, universe-devouring frowny face from another dimension with one where Thanos walked around in a bathrobe with Death, who was a little girl at the time–just didn’t strike the right chord with me.

With this one, though, Giffen is on point, and Marvel’s making no secret about where this book’s influences lie: It’s The Dirty Dozen in space with third-string space-characters, and that’s exactly the sort of thing that gets me excited. Even without Lee Marvin, there’s enough here to love right off the bat: The characters are, after all, almost completely expendable. As much as I like Bill Mantlo, I doubt anybody’s going to write an angry letter if Rocket Raccoon gets killed saving the universe, and there probably isn’t a Celestial Madonna movie in the works that requires Marvel to keep Mantis hanging around. It’s all on the table, and that’s the sort of thing that creates a real sense of danger: You really don’t know if anyone in this story’s going to make it out alive. It’s a simple concept, sure, but as John Ostrander proved with Suicide Squad, it’s one that never fails to be thrilling when it’s done right.

The end result is a script as sharp as anything Giffen’s done anywhere, with a first issue devoted to introducing the cast, and what could have easily turned into a step-by-step listing of the characters and their powers is done excellently, with Giffen’s gift for personality shining in every scene. And the art’s great, too. Timothy Green II does a great job with it, and–just in case I need to repeat the key selling point here–it doesn’t exactly hurt that he’s drawing a talking space raccoon with a machinegun hanging out with a giant Jack Kirby tree monster. It’s fantastic, fun stuff, and even if you’re not reading Annihilation, it’s well worth picking up on its own.


Batman #666: You know, I’ve always thought it was a little weird that we managed to get through both Detective Comics and Action Comics #666 without so much as Jimmy Olsen dressed in a devil costume going around causing all manner of hijinx, but it looks like we can all rest easy: We’ve finally gotten that story where the Batman of the future fights Satan for control of Gotham City that we’ve all been waiting for.

Well, that I’ve been waiting for, anyway, and when it comes right down to it, Grant Morrison’s the perfect guy to pull it off. And he does, although I’ll admit it’s not without its problems. Ever since the end of “Batman and Son,” Morrison’s stories feel like they’re moving a shade too fast for their own good, and while I love the concepts–really, the Ghosts of Batmans Past, Present, and Yet To Come? That’s fantastic!–it certainly feels like there could’ve been one more issue thrown in to sort things out a little more. Morrison’s work often asks a lot of the reader and allows you to make your own connections, but with this, it just feels like he had to cut enough stuff to make sure he could make the deadline for the Issue of the Beast. On the whole, though, it works, even if it is the second time that someone’s drawn a pentagram on Gotham City using murders to mark the points.

It’s nothing short of fun comics, with some great bits of dialogue and–just to push it over the top–a gorilla with a submachine gun. Throw in some art by Andy Kubert, and you’ve got something where the only big problem is that there’s just not enough of it, and as far as flaws go, that’s not a bad one to have.


Doktor Sleepless #1: I was not aware that this comic was going to have the words “Future Science Jesus” written on the cover. If I had been, I probably would’ve ordered two. Yes, this week saw the realease of three new projects from Warren Ellis for Avatar, and while I’ve already covered my thoughts on Black Summer when #0 came out (which hold up through this issue, with me a little surprised at how much I’m enjoying it), the Doktor here is a new on the scene.

Or at least, that’s the idea. In practice, the first issue of Doktor Sleepless reads a lot more like the Warren Ellis Greatest Hits album: He goes into his usual bag of tricks, and if you’re a fan of the guy’s work–and why wouldn’t you be?–there’s really nothing here that you haven’t seen before. Probably the biggest “complaint” about Ellis is that his lead characters all tend to speak in the same voice, from John Constantine to Desolation Jones to Aaron Stack to Jenny Sparks and back again, but with this one, the Angry Tough-Guy lead isn’t the only familiar sight: It’s got the body-modification technology gone wild from Mek, and the Dok rolls around with a reasonably angry (if not technically filthy) assistant in a world where people shout about how mad they are at the future for not being the utopia it set out to be. Even the idea of an aborted fetus being worn as jewelry was one that first cropped up in his run on Hellblazer, which I remember because it shocked the bejeezus out of me in the first Warren Ellis story I ever read.

Still, Warren Ellis doing his usual tricks is still better than a lot of the stuff you’re likely to run across on the shelf, and with art by Ivan Rodriguez that’s a lot less cluttered than what Avatar usually puts out, it’s certainly not something to write off after one issue. It’s got a lot of potential to spring out into new directions from here. I’m just worried that it’s potential I’ve seen twenty times in other comics.


Hellblazer #234: One of the nice things about actually working in a comic book store–aside from the endless hours of fun and enjoyment you can get from people calling up to tell you that they have a copy of Infinity Crusade from 1963–is that I get to take the comics out of the boxes, lay them out on the tables, and then grab my own stuff before it hits the floor. And yet, through powers of concentration cultivated by years of video games and action movies, I still managed to completely miss the last issue of Hellblazer. It all worked out, though: I grabbed it today along with the new one, and while I expected nothing less, I was glad to find out that Andy Diggle continues to turn in some great stories with this. The man’s an incredible talent, whether it’s working on Green Arrow: Year One with Jock or writing comics’ meanest magician here. Great stuff, as usual.


Heroes for Hire #12: So you guys remember when Tales of the Unexpected was coming out, and I was getting it every month just so I could read Brian Azzarello and Cliff Chiang’s brilliant Dr. Thirteen story, eventually getting to the point where I just skipped the lead outright? Yeah, that’s the bind I seem to be finding myself in again with this. To be fair, the lead story isn’t nearly as bad as The Adventures of the All-Powerful Spectre Who Stands Around Whining And Not Doing Anything Whatsoever parts 1 through 8, but the fact of the matter is that I don’t really care about the new Tarantula and Shang Chi fighting the Hulk’s alien running crew.

Hard to believe, I know, but after two issues, it’s not doing anything for me, which leaves me with the problem of justifying the expense here. Admittedly, $2.99 is a little steep for a six-page backup, but a Fred Van Lente doing a story where the new Scorpion and Paladin just throw down on each other with anything handy would almost be worth it by itself. Of course, once you throw in the fact that they’re fighting in a storehouse for impounded super-villain paraphernalia and that “anything handy” means “six-barreled shotguns and alchemy rays,” it gets a little easier to swallow.


Immortal Iron Fist #7: Allow me, if I may, to quote from the solicitation for this issue, as seen in April’s Previews:

“At long last, America, someone has combined pirates, kicking, girls, and Iron fist into a single comic book. You’re welcome.”

I’ve mentioned before that there are times when I don’t even know why I bother to review things and this is one of them, because everything you need to know about this book is right there above this sentence in italics. Fraction and Brubaker have done something wonderful here with their reworking of the Iron Fist character, adding a legacy to it that allows for stories where Pirate Queens fight for love by kicking people right in the teeth, and it is exactly as fun as it sounds. They’re behind what’s easily becoming the most enjoyable comic on the stands, and this issue stands out even among those. It’s fantastic stuff, and along with the new hardcover, it’s a great place to jump on the ongoing if you haven’t already–and seriously, if you haven’t, it would be well within my right to both shun and pity you as a pariah from the world of awesome.


Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes #32: I’ve been a little less than impressed with his work on the Legion over the past couple of issues, but to be honest, Tony Bedard’s got a tough row to hoe. Despite the fact that I liked it an awful lot, there are apparently a lot of folks out there who didn’t care for Mark Waid and Barry Kitson’s latest iteration of the Legion, but even beyond just the problems with replacing those guys, there’s the inherent problem of the book itself: How exactly do you manage to make people care about a team that’s been largely defined by the fact that it gets reset every time a The Next Big Crisis rolls around? It’s something that’s becoming equally frustrating with the DCU as a whole, but with the Legion, which sometimes reboots itself if you look at it funny, it’s a whole new challenge to deal with.

But Bedard is not a man to be underestimated. He knows, as do we all, that the solution to the problem is Validus. The solution to every problem, in fact, is Validus.


Tarot: Witch of the Black Rose #45: There’s a scene in Live Free or Die Hard where the guy who plays Mac in the “Mac and PC” ads asks John McClane why he does what he does, why he risks his own life to fight the overwhelmingly deadly forces of internet-based terrorists and vaguely European robbers, and McClane says that he does it because nobody else can. If there was someone else who could do it, he says, he’d gladly let them take over, but there isn’t anyone else. So he has to do it.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is exactly how I feel about Tarot. I read it so that you don’t have to… because I’m the only one who will.

And it’s not always as easy as it looks, either, like in this issue, where Jim Balent actually manages to hit a new low, which, honestly, I didn’t even think was possible anymore. And yet, he manages it, as the latest issue of his artistically bankrupt horrorporn finds Tarot hogtied and molested by the servants of some dude with bleeding eyes who believes that he can unlock the secrets of witchcraft by ingesting, and I’m quoting the story here, Tarot’s “milk and honey.” “Honey” in this context is a metaphor, milk is not, and I’m honestly not sure which part of that is worse. Needless to say, Tarot is unable to prevent herself from becoming aroused over the course of being violated, and it’s about at that point that I wanted to shove an icepick into my brain to take the edge off.

And all that from a character continually referred to by her creator and fans as a strong, empowered female lead. Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.


Usagi Yojimbo #104: The last time an issue of Usagi came out, someone asked me why I didn’t bother to review it, and the simple answer is this: It’s really, really hard to think of enough nice things to say about Stan Sakai’s truly amazing samurai epic. It’s a masterpiece in every sense of the word, and Sakai proves it every time an issue comes out with his beautiful artwork and compelling stories, even in an issue like this one, where the title character doesn’t even make an appearance.

That’s always been a pet peeve of mine with comics ever since I was a kid, but with Usagi, you’d hardly even notice for the depth and skill of the storytelling, this time focused on the origins of Jei, one of Usagi’s greatest foes. It’s an amazing piece, reading (at least to me) like it draws as much from Otto Binder and C.C. Beck as it does from feudal Japan, with some truly creepy scenes so intense that they spill onto the inside back cover before they finish.

And the great thing of it is, I could say that about every issue. Admittedly, I don’t have a full run (as the trades seem to drop out of print with alarming regularity), but I can honestly say that I’ve never read a lackluster issue of Usagi; they all have that same level of dedication, craftsmanship and qualitiy that mark it as one of the greatest comics ever, and, well, if you’re not already bored of hearing me sing its praises, I can’t imagine that you’d want to read it every time it comes out. Suffice to say, it’s a wonderful comic, and if I don’t mention it, it’s because I assume you already know.

I mean, how could you not?





Crécy: If you’ve ever been reading the Wikipedia entry on the Battle of Crecy and found yourself wishing that it had more pictures and swearing, then brother, have I got a deal for you.

No, really: That’s exactly what this is. Ellis takes all the facts about an incredibly fascinating historical battle that marked the end of chivalry, mixes in a narrator with a contemporary viewpoint and a mouth like a sailor, and while that’s a recipie that could easily go wrong, it all comes off as breezy, informative, and, well, fun. That’s an odd adjective to apply here, seeing as it’s about brutal, filth-encrusted medieval warfare, but it reads like Ellis stripping things down and rebuilding them as the textbook he always wanted as a kid: One that didn’t shy away from the bad words and worse deeds, with a sharp focus on gallows humor and spite. Throw in the fact that it’s only $6.99, and you’ve got a nice way to knock out a lunch hour, assuming, of course, that you don’t mind reading about people getting stabbed in the face while you eat.


Order of the Stick v.-1: Start of Darkness: It’s been pretty obvious that I’m a fan of Rich Burlew’s Order of the Stick since, oh, about the end of Infinite Crisis, I’d say, and with good reason: It’s amazingly well-done on just about every level. The stick figure art alone is deceptively complex, with designs that allow for a incredibly emotive characters and great fight sequences, and the writing is always sharp, and Burlew never sacrifices a punchilne, even when things get more on the serious side.

But you can find all that out for yourself on the web. With this, though, the second original graphic novel he’s done as a prequel for the online comic, the same rules apply, but (as with the first prequel, On the Origin of the PCs), it’s done on a bigger scale. They’re divided into chapters instead of pages, but he keeps things moving at the same pace with an origin story for the villains that’s funny, tragic, and downright heartbreaking, often all at the same time. If you like what you read on the website, then trust me: The books are well worth picking up, if only to see an appearance by the ISB’s favorite game designer, Keith Baker.



Annnnnnnnnd that’s the week. As always, if you have any questions about anything I read, skipped over, left at the store, or you just want to disagree with my opinion despite the fact that I’m pretty much always right, feel free to leave a comment or shoot me an email.

As for me, I’ll be over here trying to figure out why I never knew I wanted to see four issues’ worth of Green Arrow’s origin until Andy Diggle and Jock were doing it. I’m thinkin’ it’s the cargo shorts.

The Week In Ink: June 21, 2007

I know, I know: With all the fuss leading up to my three-day rock-off at HeroesCon ’07, I never actually got around to reviewing last week’s comics. But really, aside from the fact that Punisher War Journal was awesome and Re-Gifters–by the same team that brought you My Faith In Frankie and the artist of this week’s Wonderland–was everything I wanted from the Minx line all done at once, what more do you need to know?

Besides, the ISB is all about the now. Especially when this is happening:



Now, to move on, before anyone realizes the staggering hypocricy of someone who routinely trots out forty year-old DC comics to mock them for their lack of contemporary storytelling claiming to be all about the now! After all, it’s Thursday night, and there’s a ridiculous stack of comics on my desk to review! How ridiculous?

I’m glad you asked!



And shockingly, last week had even more. Now then, time’s a-wastin’, so buckle up for the Internet’s Most Mind-Blowing Comics Reviews!





Annihilation: Conquest Prologue: A while back, after a discussion about offering ISB t-shirts in womens’ sizes, I got an email saying that I was, from all evidence, “on the Good Guy end of the sexist spectrum,” and while that’s always nice to hear, it’s a rumor I’d like to completely dispel with this next sentence:

If there’s one thing I love more than lesbians, it’s space lesbians!

Yes, in addition to star-spanning slam-bang action, this one focuses heavily on Phyla and Moondragon, who take time out from beating people up in space to hug each other a little, and if that’s not a selling point, I don’t know what is! All kidding aside, though, the first few issues of Nova have gotten me really excited about Annihilation–even though I skipped it the first time around, and this one keeps that going pretty well. Of course, considering that it comes from Abnett & Lanning (the same guys who write Nova) and Mike Perkins (who pencilled the incredibly fun and underrated Union Jack mini with Christos Gage), that’s to be expected.


Brave and the Bold #4: Normally, this is where you’d find my usual complaint about a two-month gap between issues, but when it’s George Perez taking some extra time, things are a lot easier to forgive. Simialrly, under any other circumstances, a team-up between the new Supergirl and Lobo would sound about as appealing as a sandwich made of punches, but Mark Waid manages to pull it off. Supergirl’s petulant and self-righteous–which I think we can all agree is pretty well in line with how she is over in her own title of late–but Waid takes the time to show that there’s an underlying concern for Green Lantern in there that softens the edge to it and makes her come off as a frustrated character, rather than a frustrating one.

Also, it opens with Half-Robot Batman, and if that’s not the most awesome thing you see today, then thanks for reading the ISB, Professional Shark Wrangler.


Conan #41: And now, tonight’s second incredibly misogynistic statement:

Tim Truman and Cary Nord’s adaptation of Robert E. Howard’s classic “Rogues in the House”–one of my favorites, for reasons that’ll be obvious if you’ve read it before–continues to be thoroughly awesome, and while I just read through the Roy Thomas/Barry Windsor-Smith adaptation a few weeks ago, I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of seeing Conan chuck a his naked, traitorous ex-girlfriend off the roof into a cesspit. Cracks me up every time.


Heroes for Hire #11: Before you guys get the idea that I didn’t learn my lesson from a misspent youth that involved buying every Joker: Last Laugh tie-in and every Bruce wayne: Murderer tie-in (Azrael?! What was I thinking?!), allow me to assure you: I’m not getting every “World War Hulk” crossover. It might look like that, given the next few items on the list here, but, well, when you put Christos Gage on a book, I’m probably going to buy it.

Heroes for Hire, meanwhile, is a whole different story: I had other reasons for picking up this issue. I’ve got to say, though: It may just be that I’m coming in with no knowledge of what’s supposed to be going on with these characters–I guess Humbug is a parody of Penance, maybe?–but I don’t think I’m missing a whole lot here. What I don’t want to miss, howver, is a story by Fred Van Lente that features everyone’s favorite green-haired teenage SHIELD agent, the new Scorpion! There was a great one in last week’s Spider-Man Family too, where she took on the New Venom (who is also the Old Scorpion), but it’s always nice to see a minor-league character that I really like just keep popping up like that.


Incredible Hulk #107: If there’s one thing I’ve learned from the past year or so of Marvel Comics, it’s that I could probably get through the next couple of years just fine if I didn’t see any super-heroes fighting each other. That said, the only two characters that I actually like to see fighting other super-heroes are the guys slugging it out on the cover, so this one gets a free pass.

Greg Pak seems to be pulling out all the stops for “World War Hulk” here, too: If “Planet Hulk” had any major problem, it was probably the mildly repetitive nature of the plot’s advancement. Hulk would punch someone out, frown a lot and then tell someone he didn’t care about anything, and then they’d wonder if he was the Savior or the Destroyer, and it’d repeat itself for a hellaciously enjoyable year. With this one, though, that’s all gone out the window. We already know why we’re here, and now it’s time for someone to get punched so hard that the sound effect contains sixteen Os. And that, my friends, is just what I wanted to see.


Iron Man: Hypervelocity #6: And speaking of someone pulling out all the stops, this issue features Adam Warren at what may well be his Adam Warrenest: The whole issue takes exactly 3 minutes and 29 seconds, is set to Iggy Pop’s “Search and Destroy” and features a running battle of operating systems expressed as a suit of sentient Iron Man armor punching and getting punched through the walls of a death-trap helicarrier named after the CO of the Howling Commandos. It is, essentially, the biggest, craziest, fastest, nerdiest robot fight ever put on paper, and if that’s your thing (which it certainly is for me), it’s a hoot.


Madame Mirage #1: Those of us who actually read the text pieces in last month’s Madame Mirage preview–which, let’s be honest here, was probably just me–will probably recall that Mirage was originally conceived by Paul Dini as an online cartoon, and, well, that makes a lot of sense. It has all the trappings of the genre: A busty heroine fighting vague evil alongside a funny-ish sidekick in an ultraviolent dystopian future full of transforming jetpacks.

Yeah, I know, that last one sounds oddly specific, but trust me: It was a genre. Of course, now that I’ve gotten all that written down, I’m not even sure why it’s there. After all, the whole point of a review is to tell you something you might not know about the title, but with Madame Mirage, it’s pretty much exactly what you’d expect: Much like the character herself, everything’s pretty much out in the open here. Then again, it’s all going to change by #3, so…


The Spirit #7: In these little chats we have every week, I’ve often voiced my distaste for the almost constant stream of fill-in issues we’ve been getting lately, and I’d do the same thing here for an issue of the Spirit with no Darwyn Cooke behind it, but, well, when your fill-in guys are Walt Simonson, Chris Sprouse, and Kyle Baker, things are a little easier to take.


Wasteland #10: For those of you who were waiting for revelations to start hitting for the secrets that have surrounded Michael and Abi since the first issue, then wait no longer: The intruiging vagueness starts here!

Really, though, I hardly feel like I’ve got to review this one, and a look at the back cover ought to tell you why:



That makes the second time that I’ve sung this book’s praises so loud that the good folks over at Oni felt like they should put it on the back of the book, and I meant every word of it: Wasteland has some great stuff going on, and if you’ve been holding out, jump on. I mean, I heard from some guy on the internet that it’s meticulous, and that’s gotta count for something!


The Weapon #1: I came very close to not picking this one up, owing to Platinum Studios’ history of thoroughly unsavory business practices, not the least of which includes an unholy alliance with the plague that is KISS comics. Still, owing to the fact that it’s written by Fred Van Lente (who, as we’ve already seen, has such a svengaliesque hold on me that I’ll even buy Heroes For Hire), I gave it a shot, and, well, it’s really good. The idea behind the lead character is so simple and beautiful that I’ve been kicking myself all day for not thinking of it first: He’s Iron Fist meets Green Lantern, a kung fu physics genius who invented a set of gauntlets that create hard-light weapons with a thought, with an explanation at the beginning done up as a sales pitch that does a pretty good job of selling it to the reader as well. It’s the kind of idea that has the potential for great visuals in the action scenes, and artist Scott Koblish makes the most of them, with stuff like a quick-paced fight scene on top of a bus between the main character and two sword-wielding bikini girls. It’s got the fun of a Jackie Chan movie mixed with Van Lente’s usual engaging hooks, and to be honest, it’s not one to miss. Give it a shot.


Weird World of Jack Staff #1: When you get right down to it, I’m just putting this out here for anyone who didn’t already know it was coming out this week; my usual comments about Paul Grist’s genius and Jack Staff being the greatest underappreciated masterpiece of modern comics still apply, and as per usual, everything from the Starfall Squad to Sommerset Stone: Gentleman Adventurer is pure, wonderful fun.




Mantlo: A Life In Comics: I mentioned this one on one of my increasingly sporadic ISB Podcasts, but David Yurkovich’s tribute book for Bill Mantlo has finally hit the shelves, and with an incredibly affordable price tag of $7.50, I felt like I ought to encourage everyone to buy it, if you haven’t already. If there’s one thing I’ve proven over and over again here on the ISB, it’s that I freakin’ love Bill Mantlo, and this looks to be a very well-done and fascinating portrait of the man’s life and work with the proceeds going to his care, so if it lets me find out more about a man who brought so much fun into my life while paying him back for the same, I’m all for it.




Yotsuba&! v.4: It’s not often that I go with trades as the Best of the Week–let alone manga, which I seem to be getting more of every month–but I’d be lying if I said that I read anything this week that wasn’t as purely entertaining as Yotsuba&!

I’ve mentioned my love for the series before, but it always bears repeating: It’s awesome, and every bit as hilarious as the early volumes of Cromartie High School were, but without the gorillas and shirtless Freddie Mercuries. Normally, missing out on those things would be a detriment, but Kiyohiko Azuma more than makes up for it here, with Yotsuba following up her battles against Global Warming and the complexities of the doorbell with stories where she finds out that adults will inevitably cheat in games against their children and, in the best bit of this volume, her attempts to help a neighbor deal with a broken heart. If you’ve never read it, you need to. It’s great, and while I don’t often pull this one out, it’s applicable here:

If you don’t like Yotsuba&!, then you just don’t like anything.



Quite the salesman, I know. Anyway, that’s the week! If you have any nagging questions or concerns, or if you’d just like to shoot the breeze about how awesome Will Pfeifer and David Lopez are on Catwoman, discuss how this week’s Robin is a near-perfect done-in-one story, or just flip out about Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four, feel free to drop a line or leave a comment.

Saturday Night’s Main Event: Small Change, Big Hurtin’

The delay in getting this week’s comics reviews written left me unable to participate in this week’s Friday Night Fights, but let it never be said that the love Bahlactus holds for comic book violence eclipses my own!

That’s right, it may be a day late, but it’s sure as heck not a dollar short, because tonight, the ISB brings you another bone-jarring battle!

In this corner, the dastardly disciplinarian of depravity, the Provost!



And his opponent, the little girl with the big right hook, Molly “Bruiser” Hayes!


Place your bets, folks, but if you’re expecting a big payoff, well…



Hope you don’t mind nickels!




I ask you: Could that fight be any more awesome? Answer: Probably not.